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The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

The Steam Whisperer (Formerly Boilerpro)

Joined on May 25, 2008

Last Post on August 21, 2014

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Dont forget a Hartford loop...

@ April 7, 2013 7:54 PM in Water boils into pipes.

if you have a gravity returen and follow minimum pipes sizes from the manufacturers charts.  Larger is better.  Probably for your boiler that would be 2- 3 inch risers from the boiler into a 4 inch header, with a 1 1/2 inch equalizer.  Also, despite that the manufacaturer (it looks like you have a Weil McLain EGH boiler) says nothing about it in the install manual, do not use welded piping for the header. Using welded piping can pretty much guarantee boiler failure within 14 years and leaks well before that.
Looks like you're up in Milwaukee....its been a few years since I traveled up your way (really nice downtown and botanical gardens).   I'm up in Winnetka, Glencoe and Highland Park failrly regularly.


@ April 6, 2013 8:55 PM in Water boils into pipes.

The supplies must come off the top of the header or at least 45 degrees up.

One thing to try.....

@ March 24, 2013 7:37 PM in Ceiling rads and Thermostatic Rad Valves

I have come to understand that the Danfoss one pipe TRV does not have a very effective vacuum breaker.  You may want to try a Macon/ Tunstall TRV which has a dedicated vacuum breaker that can let the radiator fill with air when the steam shuts off on a cycle to help prevent steam from entering the next cycle.


@ March 15, 2013 9:44 AM in Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control



@ March 8, 2013 10:30 PM in Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control

Ron had said that it has become a problem again because they are not prebaking the cables.  Also, this is an induced draft model, so chimney draft is not involved.
I'll run the other checks when I get the factory pilot assembly.  The pilot and cable in the boiler now are only 2 weeks old.


@ March 8, 2013 6:43 PM in Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control

I spoke to Ron at Burnham and he filled me in on a couple of potential issues. Burnham no longer uses the spark ignitor with separate ignition wire because the higher temperatures in the combustion zone are causing problems with the connection coming loose. In addition, Honeywell is not properly heating the ignition cables to eliminate offgassing, so they off gas in the boiler coating the ignitor.    This appeared to be my current problem.  After only 2 weeks in use, the boot was brittle and cracked, and the ignitor was partially shorted out by all the debris beteen the electrodes.  I cleaned the debris out and polished the electrode and the pilot light instantly. 
What I don't get is why, after Burnham knew about the substandard quality of the Honeywell components they would choose to replace them with other Honeywell supplied components.

I was thinking about that

@ March 6, 2013 9:18 PM in Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control

I noticed there is no direct gorund to the pilot burner....bad idea.  They have the pilot ground attached to the gas valve and then it had to make its way through the loose fitting burners where they rest on the orifice.  Would a bad ground give the wild readings during spark and then stablize ounce the spark ends?
I got your e-mail Timmie, thank you. 

I sure don't like that the control is proprietary to Burnham!   I think I may leave the hot water field altogehter if the boiler manufacturer's are going to continue make everything proprietary.  I think I'll just stick with steam.

I believe...

@ March 4, 2013 5:09 PM in Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control

an S8670E 3003.  The one with the green and yellow troubleshooting LED's.

Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control

@ March 4, 2013 9:03 AM in Problems with new(er) Honey well spark control

I have a Burnham boiler with the new self diagnosing spark control that is having problems.   First check we were getting short cycles and the control indicated weak flame signal. Checked for excessive resistance in the pilot circuit, found the connector somewhat  loose and tightened, but still same problem.  Also, noticed pilot would light immediately when boiler was cool, but not when hot.  Replaced pilot assembly and attached wire with new pilot assembly and spark plug style wire and weak flame signal indication was gone and boiler operated normally.  I did find that the pilot was not completely seated on the burner moun, so I may have been getting a bad ground.  Got another call a week later... no heat.   Owner powered down the boiler several times for as long as 1/2 hour, but control did not reset.  I came in and checked a couple wires to be sure they were tight and everything seemed ok.  Hooked up meter between transformer common and PV and started boiler.  I was getting readings all over the place during spark, then once the pilot lit, stable.  Boiler lit fine and has contrinued to work for several days.  Is the wild reading normal during spark ?  Any other ideas?


@ February 26, 2013 9:50 AM in The elegance of simplicity has it been lost?

That's exactly what I was talking about....looking at the big picture to see if we really save anything with the super efficient models.

another view....

@ February 25, 2013 10:10 AM in The elegance of simplicity has it been lost?

This is a question I have had for a long time, and have been driving towards a particular answer. 
I believe that a lot of the high tech that gets employed in most industries is used to make inherently poor designs work.  I think we started getting very lazy with our engineering after WW II, it seems and that trend continues today.  It's one of the reasons why I have moved from servicing and installing mostly  hot water heat to nearly all steam.  I've installed and designed plenty of high tech systems and installed high tech boilers.   And now, 7 to 10 years down the road, I am seeing the issues of component failures where parts are hard to find and expensive heat exchanger replacements.  And, I suspect, many of these issues are due to poor quality control, but others are due to not anticipating conditions in the real world ( IE unclean power, generator use during power failures, etc.) or ignoring the impact of these issues.
Let's take a common case in point:  Outdoor reset on hot water systems, especially single zone.   The old high mass radiators inherently provided outdoor reset while just using a simple on/off boiler.  Now, to achieve a similar comfort level with a newer low mass system, we need outdoor reset, modulating burners, and constant circulation.   Yes, a mod con will save gas, but now we draw all sorts of electricity that runs up the electric bill.  And, of course, there is a whole lot more to go wrong, which it usually does, once again increasing costs.   My previous home, when I purchased it, had a great big atmospheric boiler with a single pump and thermostat. Our typical winter electric bills where about $35.  When we sold it, it had a condensing boiler with outdoor reset and, fortunately, a single circulator and, with no one living there, the winter electric bill was $35.  Yes, our gas usage was lower, but electric went up and the boiler required much more ongoing maintenance than the old.  Did we come out ahead?  I did because I could do the maintenance, but if I was paying for it, probably not.
The problem I see here is that a very broad view is not being taken when applying new technologies.  People are not considering the impact of other aspects of the system they are addressing. I believe that in the pre WWII steam heating systems, a much broader view and much greater creativity and understanding was being applied.  I have a huge 8,000 sq ft 1930's home that the bills top out at only $600.00, with virtually no electrical use, almost no insulation and huge leaky windows.  All of our technology today would be hard pressed to match this performance. 
Another big example I see is forced air heating.  In order to address the issues of wide temperature swings, high air leakage from the structure due to the operation of the furnace fan, the industry has had to resort to modulating input and variable speed fans.  Technology is used to cover inherent design flaws of the system.
And the referral to the auto industry is also interesting.  My 2001 Ford Van gets the same mileage as the larger 1974 Dodge I learned to drive in.  An early 80's Honda Civic got 45mpg, while the latest model only gets 35.  Something is very wrong here.
I am certainly not against new technology, but it should only be applied to a good fundamental design  and it can be used to enhance it.

You certainly couldn't get any one better than Gerry

@ January 27, 2013 8:18 AM in Dunkirk question


Here you go

@ January 26, 2013 9:41 PM in Dunkirk question

this is one I did several years ago


@ January 26, 2013 9:13 AM in Dunkirk question

The Dunkirk PWSB essentially has a very small steam chest for water/steam separation within the boiler.  In  addition, the connecting nipples between the sections are only 2 inch, so the larger 2 1/2 inch tapping probably offers little performance benefit because the velocity of the steam moving laterally inside the boiler towards the exits are extremely high.  A good header is probably extremely important on this design in order for efficient, dry steam to be produced.  When these boilers are running, you can hear the water moving up the risers.  Once the boiler runs for awhile and the water line drops, there is a lot more room for steam separation, and the noise goes away.
Also, a tip on installing not follow the instructions for installation of the skimming port.  Installed according to instructions the bottom of the skimmer is below the level of the connecting ports in the boiler, so you only end up skimming the end section.  Bushing the skim opening down to 1 1/4 on the tee, will raise the skimming level up so all the sections will be skimmed.

Bad situation......

@ January 21, 2013 6:31 PM in And the pendulum has swung

seen it before.  I had one like that and I found that a huge plate on the bottom of theold snowman boiler had fallen off.  Combution test showed about 52 % efficiency. Took a block and held the plate in place, sealed up a bunch of other leaks and got the efficiency up to 76%.  Now that the heat was going into the system we had to put the vents back on because steam was getting though to the end radiators.  At least most of the mains were insulated. 
Your boiler didn't have a chance with all that against it!


@ January 21, 2013 8:34 AM in And the pendulum has swung

if they meet heat loss and are two pipe with insulated mains, supply orifices should do the trick with some generous main venting and minimal return line venting.  One pipe gets more challenging....if they have the typical radiator covers at least that drops the radiation capacity by25%.  Big main vents and little adjustable radiator vents is the best.   Also, when getting into multiunits, I find alot of radiators off, so that can help.
Your'e probably on target re: energy training in steam.

The big question is...

@ January 20, 2013 7:02 PM in And the pendulum has swung

did they heat evenly anyway or can they be made to heat evenly?

Not in Chicago.....

@ January 20, 2013 2:53 PM in And the pendulum has swung

Every Weil Mclain LBG I run into I pull the high fire wire(s)  and the system works much better, with the exception of some older models that run at 50% fire on low.  On the Peerless 211's, I run the regulator as low as possible and always improve things.   My running assumption that every steam boiler I see is at least 80% over sized (beyond the 33% Pick up factor) has not failed me yet. 

Need EDR for this Radiator

@ January 18, 2013 10:00 PM in Need EDR for this Radiator

I remember seeing these for the first time about 20 years ago...anyone have steam heating capacity.  They come in various heights and lengths

6 hp

@ January 2, 2013 6:51 PM in thoughts on 1 vs 2 boilers

I bet it's 1/6 hp.  The RE6850 is only 1/7 hp and fires over 1 million btu.  The LNB's have small ECM motors that use about 1/2 teh power of standard motors.

Downfiring not allowed

@ January 1, 2013 10:50 AM in Oversized Boiler?

That amount of down firing is prohibited by Weil Mclain when I have spoken to them about grossly over sized EG/EGH boilers.   I'd say "NO WAY".  They had every opportunity to do it right and are just doing whatever they can to not eat the cost of a mistake.   For me, one of the best gages of the integrity of a company (or individual for that matter) is how they react when they make a mistake.  While they shouldn't happen, they always will as long as human beings are involved.

Yes sir and Mam!

@ December 29, 2012 6:39 PM in Women in Trades

One of the best gas techs for one of our local gas companies was a gal.  Unfortunately she was about the only women I have met in the HVAC trade in 20 years.   Being back in Chicago, however, I expect I will meet more.   I hope we will see a much more balanced future in the trade.  

Keep on, keeping on!
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